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Connecticut, like other states, launched an online health exchange -- Access Health CT -- where residents can shop for and purchase health insurance. There could be new opportunities for the unemployed or uninsured to receive health insurance. Here, we gather our coverage of changes under the new federal law.

Access Health Enrollment Dips, Officials Warn Of Future Chill From Public Charge Rule

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Courtesy of Access Health CT
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Thousands of people will get health insurance coverage this year from plans they chose through Access Health CT, the state’s Affordable Care Act health insurance marketplace. But state officials worry about changes to federal law that may hinder continuing participation in health insurance programs. 

Nearly 108,000 people selected plans this year through Access Health CT, according to a final report released Thursday. It’s a slight dip from enrollment in the previous year, but officials said that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

“There’s people that are eligible for Medicare, people that leave the state, people that are now getting coverage through work, so there’s a lot of variables that come in play,” said Andrea Ravitz, director of marketing and sales at Access Health CT.

The state’s overall uninsured rate remains low at about 5.3%, or about 187,000 people. Access Health CT deployed a pilot community canvassing program this year to try to reach those residents who remain uninsured.

Enrollment specialists knocked on over 28,000 doors and placed closed to 11,000 calls to residents throughout the state encouraging people to enroll in health insurance or help them chose the best plan.

Ravitz said the program is part of a larger plan to help reduce disparities in health care access and affordability of health care services.

But going forward, changes to federal law may complicate efforts to enroll people next year or keep people on their current plans.

The Trump administration’s public charge rule is set to take effect Monday. It allows officials to deny permanent legal status to immigrants if they use programs like Medicaid, which is the Husky Health program in Connecticut, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), housing vouchers and others.

“We need to work with the [state] Department of Social Services to make sure consumers understand what it really means,” Susan Rich-Bye, Access Health director of legal and governmental affairs, said at a recent board meeting.

Confusion and misinformation about the rule may lead people to drop their health coverage if they think it’ll count against them, even when it may not. Ravitz wanted to be clear that the public charge rule does not apply when people and customers receive tax credits or other forms of financial help to help pay for their private health insurance plans.

But she said people are already getting incorrectly advised about that.

“We heard a comment today about an attorney advising a customer to drop their coverage,” Ravitz said, “and so that is, again, another opportunity for us to have those conversations with those attorneys and kind of clear what things are.”

Nicole Leonard joined Connecticut Public Radio to cover health care after several years of reporting for newspapers. In her native state of New Jersey, she covered medical and behavioral health care, as well as arts and culture, for The Press of Atlantic City. Her work on stories about domestic violence and childhood food insecurity won awards from the New Jersey Press Association.
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